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David Gordon

David Gordon

David Gordon (born 1948) is an American libertarian philosopher and intellectual historian influenced by Rothbardian views of economics. Peter J. Boettke, in his Reason Foundation "Reason Papers," Issue No. 19, Fall 1994, describes Gordon as "a philosopher and intellectual historian who is deeply influenced by the Rothbardian strand of economics." He is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor of The Mises Review.

Articles by David Gordon

Violence, Homesteading, and the Origins of Private Property

20 hours ago

Those who us who accept self-ownership and a Lockean account of property acquisition must face an important objection. In this account, self-owners occupy land and other natural resources, in that way acquiring exclusive rights to the land or resources. Once they done so, they may transfer their titles to the property they have acquired through …

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Democracy Is Coercive, No Matter What “Civic Republicans” Say

8 days ago

An influential line of thought in contemporary political philosophy began well but quickly got off track. The line of thought began as a criticism of Isaiah Berlin. In his famous paper, “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Berlin set forward a notion of “negative freedom” that libertarians will find familiar: “I am normally said to be free …

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What Venezuela Needs for a Prosperous Future

8 days ago

Prosperity & Liberty: What Venezuela Needs. Edited by Rafael Acevedo. Econintech, 2019.
Rafael Acevedo is a distinguished Venezuelan economist, now in part-time residence at Texas Tech University, who is deeply concerned about the future of his native country. Socialism has brought Venezuela to rack and ruin, and if the country is to recover, a move to the free market is essential.
Many have said the same thing, but Acevedo has done much more than bemoan his country’s fate and point to the obvious remedy. He is the head of a think tank called Econintech, and he and his collaborators have proposed detailed plans for the reconstruction of Venezuela from its present state of wreckage.
In Prosperity & Liberty, Acevedo has gathered

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What Venezuela Needs for a Prosperous Future

10 days ago

Prosperity & Liberty: What Venezuela Needs. Edited by Rafael Acevedo. Econintech, 2019. Rafael Acevedo is a distinguished Venezuelan economist, now in part-time residence at Texas Tech University, who is deeply concerned about the future of his native country. Socialism has brought Venezuela to rack and ruin, and if the country is to recover, a move …

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John Rawls’s Unfortunate Notions of the Nation-State

15 days ago

The most famous work of twentieth-century political philosophy is John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice (1971). The most controversial part of this book is the “difference principle”: “Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of …

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A Problem with Paternalism

22 days ago

Sometimes the government passes laws that restrict people for what it claims to be their own good, such as laws that ban drugs that are supposed to be bad for your health. Laws like this are called “paternalistic.” Libertarians oppose paternalism, but it is not only libertarians who reject it. It is at odds with …

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Conservatism: A Vanishing Tradition

23 days ago

[The Vanishing Tradition: Perspective on American Conservatism. Edited by Paul Gottfried. Cornell University Press, 2020. 223 + pages.]
Paul Gottfried’s excellent anthology of essays on American conservatives chronicles a key phenomenon of our times. Understanding it is important not only for those, like Gottfried and his contributors, who are traditionalist conservatives, but for anyone concerned with freedom. The phenomenon in question is the takeover of American conservatism by neoconservatives.
Why should this development concern us? In brief, the neocons, interested in their own agenda, have joined with the left in enforcing a public orthodoxy that excludes certain views from discussion. As Gottfried explains: “We might note

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Conservatism: A Vanishing Tradition

24 days ago

[The Vanishing Tradition: Perspective on American Conservatism. Edited by Paul Gottfried. Cornell University Press, 2020. 223 + pages.] Paul Gottfried’s excellent anthology of essays on American conservatives chronicles a key phenomenon of our times. Understanding it is important not only for those, like Gottfried and his contributors, who are traditionalist conservatives, but for anyone concerned …

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Yes, Taxation Is Theft

29 days ago

Libertarians think that taxation is theft. The government takes away part of your income and property by force. Your payments aren’t voluntary. If you think they are, try to withhold payment and see what happens. An influential book by Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, The Myth of Ownership, tries to show that this view of …

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Locke vs. Cohen vs. Rothbard on Homesteading

November 11, 2019

Last week in my article The Power of Self-Ownership, I discussed how uncomfortable self-ownership made the great Marxist political philosopher G.A. Cohen. Cohen saw that self-ownership leads to libertarianism, but he rejected libertarianism while he found self-ownership plausible. To save his socialism, he gave up self-ownership, but his reasons for doing so are weak.
If self-ownership survives Cohen’s half-hearted assault, the free market is not yet out of the woods. Cohen has another argument against libertarians, this one directed at Lockean theories of property acquisition. According to the Lockean theory, individual self-owners may, by mixing their labor with unowned land and other natural resources, come to acquire it.

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Locke vs. Cohen vs. Rothbard on Homesteading

November 8, 2019

Last week in my article The Power of Self-Ownership, I discussed how uncomfortable self-ownership made the great Marxist political philosopher G.A. Cohen. Cohen saw that self-ownership leads to libertarianism, but he rejected libertarianism while he found self-ownership plausible. To save his socialism, he gave up self-ownership, but his reasons for doing so are weak. If …

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A Deeply Flawed History of the Austrian School

November 6, 2019

    The Marginal Revolutionaries: How Austrian Economics Fought the War of Ideasby Janek WassermanYale University Press, 2019xiii+ 354 pages Janek Wasserman, who teaches history at the University of Alabama, has written a useful but deeply flawed book. Useful, because Wasserman has brought to light substantial archival material on the background of the Austrian school, …

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The Power of Self-Ownership

November 1, 2019

As every reader of Murray Rothbard knows, the principle of self-ownership stands at the basis of libertarian thought. Each person is the owner of his or her own body. If we add a principle for homesteading land and natural resources, we can without much trouble get to an anarcho-capitalist society. But even on its own, …

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Mises and the Philosophers

October 28, 2019

Includes an introduction by Peter Klein. Ludwig von Mises and his work remain incredibly prescient and relevant today. The world needs his voice more than ever, and our speakers celebrate Mises as a supremely vital thinker well-suited for today’s challenges. Recorded in Los Angeles, California, on October 26, 2019.

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Have Free-Market Economists Conquered the World?

October 14, 2019

[The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society. By Binyamin Appelbaum. Little, Brown, 2019. 439 pages.] Binyamin Appelbaum is unhappy. He is the main writer on economics for The New York Times, and he thinks that economics has taken a wrong turn. In the first half of the twentieth century, economics …

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The World’s Least-Free Countries Reveal Just How Much “Socialism Sucks”

October 12, 2019

[Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World. By Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell.  Regnery Publishing, 2019. 192 pages.] Robert Lawson and Benjamin Powell are well-known free market economists, and they do not look with favor on a disturbing trend among American young people. “In the spring of 2016,” they tell us, …

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Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War

October 4, 2019

Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold WarLindsey A. O’RourkeCornell University Press, 2018330 pages
Lindsey O’Rourke has given us a devastating indictment of the foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War and after. O’Rourke, who teaches political science at Boston College, is not a principled non-interventionist in the style of Ron Paul. To the contrary, she sympathizes with the “Offensive Realism” of John Mearsheimer, under whom she studied at the University of Chicago. Accordingly, she does not oppose the efforts of states to increase their power over other states but rather regards this as inevitable.
Her argument is that a key element of American foreign policy has failed to achieve its purpose. The United

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Harry Jaffa, Michael Anton, and Me

October 3, 2019

In response to my brief review of an article and book by him, as well as a review of a book by “Bronze Age Pervert,” Michael Anton has written a long attack on me. I do not propose to comment on all of his remarks but only on a few likely to be of interest to …

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Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War

October 1, 2019

  Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold WarLindsey A. O’RourkeCornell University Press, 2018330 pages Lindsey O’Rourke has given us a devastating indictment of the foreign policy of the United States during the Cold War and after. O’Rourke, who teaches political science at Boston College, is not a principled non-interventionist in the style of Ron Paul. …

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Bronze Age Mindset

September 27, 2019

In a recent article in The Claremont Review of Books, Michael Anton says that conventional conservatism does not appeal to American youth. “It’s been evident for a while, at least to me, that conventional conservatism no longer holds much purchase with large swaths of the under 40, and especially under 30, crowd. Tax cuts, deregulation, …

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The Failure of Global Liberal Hegemony

August 9, 2019

The Hell o Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacyby Stephen M. WaltFarrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2018xii + 384 pages
Stephen Walt has put himself in a difficult position. He is a Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the author of studies, most notably The Origins of Alliances, which have won him influence in what he calls the “foreign policy establishment.” He says, “I have been part of that community for much of my professional life.” At the same time, he acknowledges, “I am surely something of an outlier within that world.”
That is decidedly an understatement, and this leads to Walt’s difficult position. Despite his impeccable credentials as

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The Failure of Global Liberal Hegemony

August 5, 2019

  The Hell o Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacyby Stephen M. WaltFarrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2018xii + 384 pages Stephen Walt has put himself in a difficult position. He is a Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the author of studies, …

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World War I: A Revisionist Reading List

June 21, 2019

Revisionist history, as applied to World War I, began as an effort to challenge Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which claimed that the war had been imposed on “the Allied and  Associated Governments” by “the aggression of Germany and her allies.” By extension, revisionist history also criticizes the decision of the United States in 1917 to enter the war, the bad results of the treaties that ended the war, and the propaganda designed to induce the public to accept the war against the Central Powers.
Barnes, H.E. The Genesis of the World War. A pioneering revisionist book, first published in 1926. Argues that a plot between Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Izvolsky and French President Raymond Poncaré played a major

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World War I: A Revisionist Reading List

June 20, 2019

Revisionist history, as applied to World War I, began as an effort to challenge Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles, which claimed that the war had been imposed on “the Allied and  Associated Governments” by “the aggression of Germany and her allies.” By extension, revisionist history also criticizes the decision of the United States …

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World War II: A Revisionist Reading List

June 6, 2019

The dominant view of World War II is that it was the “good war.” Hitler bears exclusive responsibility for the onset of war, because he aimed to conquer Europe, if not the entire world. The United States tried to avoid entering the war but was forced into the fight by the surprise Japanese attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.
The authors on this list dissent. For them, Responsibility for the war was mixed, and Roosevelt provoked Japan’s attack.   Allied conduct of the war, furthermore, was characterized by grave ethical misconduct.
Alperovitz, Gar. The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb  Comprehensive study that shows dropping the atomic bombs was not needed to bring about Japanese surrender.
Baker, Nicholson  Human Smoke:

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Alienated America

June 2, 2019

Alienated America: Why Some Places Thrive While Others CollapseTimothy P. CarneyHaper Collins, 2019xiv + 348 pages Timothy Carney, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute and editor at the Washington Examiner, has a message of vital importance for supporters of the free market. This message is not, though, the only theme of his book. He …

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Skidelsky’s Push for Modern Mercantilism

June 2, 2019

Money and Government: The Past and Future of EconomicsRobert SkidelskyYale University Press, 2018xiv + 402 pages The title of Murray Rothbard’s Power and Market provides a useful entry to understanding Robert Skidelsky’s long and learned book. Rothbard drew a contrast between peaceful cooperation through the free market and State coercion. Which do you support, he …

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Why Economics Needs Philosophy

June 2, 2019

JEFF DEIST: Does economics need philosophy? The idea of a school of economics having a philosophical underpinning might strike some people as odd. Why should economists care about philosophy at all? DAVID GORDON: Well, that’s a very good question. You see, what Mises held was that economics has a distinct method or way of proceeding, …

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Economics In Two Lessons? Nope, Hazlitt’s One Lesson is Enough

May 8, 2019

Economics In Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly. By John Quiggin. Princeton University Press, 2019. Xii + 390 pages. The Australian economist John Quiggin is dissatisfied with Henry Hazlitt’s great book Economics in One Lesson and in his new book endeavors to set its author straight. He …

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